Wichita city council approves tax district for new stadium, area development

WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) Wichita City Council members voted Tuesday to approve a proposal to amend a community improvement district (CID) for the new AAA baseball stadium downtown.

The CID would impose a 2% sales tax on spending within a defined area to pay off the ballpark.

"What that does is actually pay for the final parts of the stadium, any infrastructure work that needs to happen," said Councilman Brandon Johnson.

The original projected cost: $83 million - $75 million for expenses related to the development of the stadium and $8 million related to infrastructure needs for adjacent commercial, retail residential, and parking structures.

The amendment includes an additional $127.2 million for private development north of the stadium. That raised the estimated project costs in the planned CID to $210 million.

"Riverfront Partners presented to the council what that’d look like, whether it was some big anchor store, mixed-use facilities, hotel," said Johnson.

The CID also covers project costs for public auditoriums and convention centers as well as the additional commercial construction on the development site. Potential development on the east side of the Arkansas River that is within the Stadium CID would also be covered.

"That’d be a huge regional attraction to have both west bank with the new stadium and new development going in and east bank if we can get new performing arts, new convention, we’ll have a hub of people coming down there," Johnson said.

That's a significant concern for Celeste Racette, an activist for Save Century II. She said the power to decide large city economic development programs should be left to voters.

"This is crazy development run amuck," said Racette. "All it takes is four council members to vote for this in favor of it, and it’s a done deal, that’s why we’re doing the voter petition. We’ve had enough. "

Councilman Byran Frye said the names of the developers could be the source of confusion.

"A little confusion because the amendment to the CID is coming from Riverfront Partners, not to be confused with the Riverfront Master Legacy Plan. Two separate groups, two separate entities. There's nothing in this amendment that is tied to tearing down the old library or Century II," he said.

Johnson said the city could begin collecting funds when the baseball stadium opens.

Opening Night for the inaugural season of Wind Surge baseball in Wichita will be on Tuesday, April 14 at 7:05 p.m.